WASHINGTON — Top officials of the Clinton administration announced an initiative Thursday to crack down on crime and drug use in the nation's public housing projects.
Addressing several hundred police, prosecutors and public housing residents at the White House, Vice President Al Gore said $250 million would be provided to help residents in 13 target cities combat "the scourge of crime and drugs" in their housing complexes.
"A vast majority of public housing residents are hard-working, law-abiding citizens," Gore said. "Yet, too often, they are victimized by a smaller group who choose to ignore the law."
The initiative is aimed at addressing a vexing problem, officials said. While overall violent crime dropped 7% in 1996, the nation's largest decrease in 35 years, many housing projects remain a hotbed of drug dealing and related crimes.
Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said the money would be used to step up law enforcement efforts and to prevent drug dealing with more investigators and community-based patrols. Public housing managers will be trained in community-policing techniques, and physical security will be improved with gates and guard posts, she said.
"We must aggressively pursue violent crime and drug trafficking in our public housing communities. Those who make their homes in our nation's public housing deserve to live without fear, like every American," she said.
Gore said the new program, to be carried out jointly by the Justice Department and the Housing and Urban Development Department, is intended to keep "the American dream alive and well" at public-housing projects.
"At more than 3,400 locations nationwide, parents are working hard to get an education, find a job, raise their families and move from welfare to work," he said.
Officials described the targeted cities as "the worst of the worst," but said that, if the program is successful, it could be expanded elsewhere.